So, the GDPR just killed your database


How’s your database looking since Friday? If the answer’s: ‘Better than ever!’, this article is not for you.

Morally speaking, GDPR is for the best. We all know why, and I won’t bang on about it anymore. The downside is that businesses like yours have had their databases dismantled from the inside out. It’s a bit of a downer, really. But let’s not dwell on it. Let’s think about how to rebuild a better, more robust and more profitable database from the ground up.


Understand your customers’ reason for being

It used to be that you’d research a demographic based on income, or location, or monthly spend, or age, or gender. But the world’s getting smaller by the day; people’s interests are increasingly diverse and idiosyncratic. Not to mention that any one of these variables are subject to instant, radical change at any time.

For these reasons, traditional demographics, at least for our purposes, are irrelevant. We’re aiming to speak to, and resonate with, as many people as possible. And you simply can’t get economical numbers by aiming for these pigeonholes. We need a different approach; one that’s more universal. We’re looking for a common attitude. That is to say, not what people are, but whythey are.

We could workshop about this topic for days. But fundamentally, there are three things that’ll help you get to the bottom of this.

  1. Understand your customers’ routine, their jobs and their responsibilities
  2. Understand your customers’ pains, fears and frustrations
  3. Understand your customers’ gains, wins and happinesses

We like to delve into this exercise in post-it format and then stick it all up on the wall, but do whatever works for you. Once you’ve got it all covered, it’s time to flip it the other way. What can you do to make their jobs easier? What can you offer to ease their pains, or make it more likely that they’ll realise their gains?


Jab, jab, hook

Buying decisions are based on trust, which is something that people inherently don’t have in brands they’ve just met. This is something you’ll need to overcome if you want to build up your list again. Now, there are a few ways you can remedy the trust thing.

The first is transparency. Brands like Everlane understand that trust can be a barrier, so they simply lay all their cards on the table. When you can see all the mechanisms and processes that go on behind the scenes, there’s no reason to mistrust them, and that makes it easier to buy. It’s a cool concept, but I won’t go into much more detail — it’s not necessarily that easy to implement.

You can also build trust by making sure to include anything that gives you clout — reviews, testimonials, press clippings, seals of approval — in a place that’s universally easy to spot. To be honest, newsletters aside, you should probably do this anyway as it’s a great way to notch up your conversion percentages in general.

The last and perhaps most straightforward trust-builder is the freebie.

To quote an earlier article, ‘Free doesn’t have to be [cheap], it only has to be useful.’ And you can give away more than just products. Think about what you have that’s both valuable and abundant. For us, it’s our time. That’s why we give away Walkshops for businesses seeking advice. It’s also our knowledge, so we give that away too. The words you’re reading right now are freebies. And (we hope) they’re valuable; we know one of your pains right now is the GDPR-graveyard of your mailing list, and one of your jobs is to build it back up again.

So, ultimately, the question to you is: What can you give away to your subscribers that makes their lives better?

NOTE: In a post-GDPR world, remember that you’ve got to get explicit consent to send marketing stuff — i.e. if you have, say, a free .PDF download, make sure that you give subscribers an opportunity to opt in to marketing as well. For more on the dos and don’ts, check out our earlier article on the subject.

There’s a point to the ‘Jab, Jab, Hook’ thing too. When people are on the receiving end of a freebie, they’re not only a little more trusting, but their subconscious starts to feel like reciprocating. So, when you offer them a second jab — say a discount in a newsletter, now they’re all signed up — they’re far more likely to actually purchase. That’s the hook. The sale. Once you’ve got that, the rest is history.


One story, everywhere

This could be the most challenging aspect of creating an engaged and loyal audience. This isn’t about your products; it’s about how your products can help your customer in achieving their aspirations. They’re the hero of this story, not you. And you’ve got to weave this entire story through every message you ever send. It’s got to feel like you, sound like you, look like you, and cover the value-oriented stuff we talked about earlier. No matter where or when you post, you’ve got one purposeful story to tell.

Really, what you need to do is sit down and figure out a strategy. Something that’ll govern, define and signpost this story for you and your team. (Making sure to keep everything above in mind.)

If this sounds like something that’s easier said than done, pop an email to A conversation can’t hurt, right?

Cheers for reading,

The Bare team

Louis Pollard